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Sunday 22 July 2018

O'Brien not looking like option to line up against Scots

NO CONTACT: Sean O’Brien. Pic: Sportsfile
NO CONTACT: Sean O’Brien. Pic: Sportsfile

Seán O'Brien is highly unlikely to add his considerable experience to Ireland's pursuit of a third Grand Slam, at least against Scotland on Saturday week.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt made it known last Saturday that the Tullow Tank looked to be on track to make a contribution against Scotland at Lansdowne Road.

This appears to be slightly wide of the mark.

For the flanker has not yet resumed contact training for Leinster in what is a significant factor.

"Seanie did a volume of running last week which is good and we're pleased with his progression," noted Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey.

MOST TO LOSE: Jack Conan. Pic: Sportsfile
MOST TO LOSE: Jack Conan. Pic: Sportsfile

"What he is going to do is up that again today and, hopefully, he will come through that.

"We're fortunate that it is a long week, leading into Saturday.

"If he continues that progression, we'll see how he goes."

Surely O'Brien would have to return against Scarlets in Wales to hold any reasonable expectation of playing the following weekend in the serious step-up that is the Six Nations.

The far more likely scenario is for the 32-year-old to have his first run-out for Leinster, since playing against Exeter Chiefs in mid-December, will be against the Ospreys on March 24.

Question

The question then becomes will Schmidt pitch O'Brien straight back into test match rugby against Scotland on March 10 or even England on March 17?

It could well become an option for England, based simply on his experience and his versatility to cover more positions than Jack Conan.

Then again, the form and character shown by Ireland for three wins could weigh in favour of the men in possession of the shirts.

Of course, Dan Leavy and Conan, two provincial colleagues, are the two men with most to lose to O'Brien.

In terms of Leinster, Ross Byrne has recovered from the hip injury that kept the out-half out of the bloodless PRO14 League win over Southern Kings on Friday night.

Ireland's Joey Carbery has not been released back to the Blues for game time against Scarlets.

Emergence

That leaves Leo Cullen to decide between Byrne and the sudden emergence of Ciaran Frawley.

The likelihood is Byrne will slot straight back in to maintain his rhythm as Johnny Sexton's back-up ten at Leinster. It could even be an opportunity for Frawley to slot in at twelve, as a second distributor, outside Byrne.

Centre Rory O'Loughlin has completed his return-to-play protocols following his concussion against the Scarlets and will be further assessed through the week.

Hooker James Tracy came through with no adverse reaction on return from his dislocated elbow.

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